Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Paul through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in First Corinthians

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Paul through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in First Corinthians

Article excerpt

Paul through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in First Corinthians.

By Kenneth E. Bailey. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2011. Pp. 560. Paperback $32.

Most travelers who sail the ocean of studies that harbor at Paul's Corinth have approached from the West (31). Kenneth Bailey sails from the Mediterranean to explore how Middle Eastern Christians have understood 1 Corinthians (19). He has "three basic concerns": first, to demonstrate the impact of Hebrew rhetorical style on Paul's composition (19, 39, and Appendix 1); second, to show that Paul's use of metaphor creates, not merely illustrates, meaning (19, 30); and third, to use "translations of 1 Corinthians into Syriac, Arabic and Hebrew" to address textual and rhetorically critical questions (19 and Appendix 2). In this review I will sample Bailey's treatment of Isaiah 28, his handling of Paul's body metaphor, and his use of Oriental versions of the Bible to discern the meaning of 1 Corinthians.

Bailey draws on the work of James Kugel to categorize several types of parallelism from the "heightened prose" of the prophets. Isaiah 28:14-18 illustrates a combination of these forms. Bailey sees a pattern that he calls "the prophetic rhetorical template" (39-40). A glossary (527-29) provides helpful definitions of terms such as cameo, which refers to "clusters of ... one or more Hebrew parallelisms" that form the "building blocks" of homilies (527). Bailey applies this template to "Paul's hymn to the cross" in 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:2 (72). A "seven cameo ring composition" is framed by three groups of additional cameos on either side. At the top, Paul writes that he was sent "to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom" (1:17 ESV). At the bottom, he underscores "I ... did not come ... with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (2:1-2). Paul's references to the Gospel and human eloquence are inverted to highlight his essential message within the frame: "we preach Christ crucified" (1:23a) (72-101).

In 1 Corinthians Paul gives the material reality and metaphor of the body great weight. While Bailey rightly refers to parables in the prophets, the constitutive use of metaphor is not peculiarly Middle Eastern. Indeed, the parable of the body was a common trope of Greco-Roman political rhetoric. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.